REMINDER: Today is the seventh day in our journey through the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5). How have you seen Christmas continuing on despite most folks already looking ahead to St. Patrick’s Day?
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-2
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
Thought for the Day: I mentioned on Sunday how the timeline of the Magi’s visit is not what most folks think. In Luke’s Gospel, the story at the manger describes Jesus as brephos, the Greek word for a baby or infant. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Magi arrive to visit the paidion, the Greek word that describes a child approximately two years old. This often overlooked point really messes with many paintings and nativities scenes where shepherds are standing beside the wise men. This is only my imagination, but I’d like to think that news of this child’s birth spread and there were people visiting for many months – people who simply wanted to come and celebrate the hope he represented. I picture Mary being tired of unexpected guests, and had the Magi not brought gifts, she might have turned them away.
Prayer: Provide me opportunities, O Loving Lord, to glimpse your hope for this world. I don’t need much, but a little something on which I can cling. Amen.
ONLY ONE SERVICE
REMINDER: Today is the sixth day in our journey through the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5). We are halfway to Epiphany. I wonder what the halfway point would have been for the Magi, and would they have even known they were halfway to the place where they’d find whatever it was that they were to find?
Scripture: Acts 15:4
When they (Paul and Barnabas) came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.
Thought for the Day: For Biblical figures – people like Paul, Barnabas and even the Magi – they never knew whether or not they were returning home. In fact, these folks often set out unsure of where they were going and what God might have in store for them. I think too often we fall into the fantasy that everything will be better if only we can get to some other place or some other point in the future. I’ve watched people become so obsessed with getting to that ‘other’ point that they miss a lot of life that is being lived all around them. The Magi had a destination in mind, but I suspect (and this is only conjecture) that if these folks of wisdom were truly wise, then they were people who experienced everything there was to experience along their journey to the destination. For these are the kind of folk who are open to the possibility that God’s destination for them might be found somewhere along the way to what they thought was going to be their destination.
Prayer: Give me an awareness of the present, O Living God, so that whatever is happening here and now is not overlooked as I cast my narrow vision down the road. Amen.
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REMINDER: Today is the fifth day in our journey through the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5). Today is also Christmas Sunday which might seems strange to some, but while the world was fully engaged in Christmas during the first four weeks of December, the church was in Advent. It is interesting how the church is no longer that institution defining its own holiday.
Scripture: Luke 2:22-24
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they [Mary and Joseph] brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Thought for the Day: Doing what is customary or doing what is written in scripture is a good thing. This has, at different times in history, become viewed in a negative light as people started thinking that doing what was customary or doing what was written in scripture was the only way of earning God’s love. We participate in rituals and traditions because of their meaning, not their ability to justify our righteousness. In fact, Mary and Joseph chose the offering that poor folks would choose. It not only reminds us of this couple’s economic status, but it also shows us how the faith provided a way for everyone to participate. It wasn’t that God needed a certain type of offering to tip the scales toward humanity. These practices reminded Mary and Joseph who they were as beloved children of God, and their participation in these rituals became a visible sign of their basic belief — that the God who loved them would also love their child. As we journey with the Wise Men toward Bethlehem, let us be reminded of God’s unconditional love that invites us into the divine presence. The rituals and traditions do not begin the flow of this love, but acknowledge it, celebrate it, and allow it to more fully reside within us.
Prayer: Thank you, Father God, for all the ways you provide a doorway into a stronger relationship with you. Amen.
REMINDER: Today is the fourth day in our journey through the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5). Keep your eye on the star, while also being aware of the Magi who have been “searching diligently”.
Scripture: Psalm 94:14-15
For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.
Thought for the Day: The Magi (wise men) followed a star that would lead them to Bethlehem, but even more so, they were seeking an idea – sustenance for their yearning. People have used the stars to navigate for most of human history, and though the stars guided them to a destination, there was almost always something else for which they were looking. Is your current perceived destination really going to be a good place to find that which your heart truly desires? As you move toward the New Year and Epiphany, what navigational correction needs to take place for you to reach a destination where you might actually find that which is just, hopeful and life-giving?
Prayer: Lead me, Lord, and I will follow. Guide me, and I will accompany you to that place where your gift is found. Amen.
REMINDER: The 12 days of Christmas are December 25 – January 5 (Epiphany Eve). We are just beginning our journey to Epiphany, so consider an old tradition of leaving on your porch light until the Magi find their way home (thanks Bonita for reminding me of that tradition).
Scripture: Isaiah 60:1
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Thought for the Day: At 1:15am on Christmas morning, I found myself in the church parking lot with a bit of a problem. My windshield was covered with ice – yes, ice! This is a common happening in many places across the country, but Houston, Texas, rarely has this problem. And for someone who always parks in the garage, I have not experienced this problem since I left Kansas City in 2006. It took me only a few months of Florida living before the window scraper was tossed, so I was in a bit of a dilemma the other night. I tried all kinds of things to scrape the windshield while the defroster barely made a dent. As I sat back in the car with the windshield-wipers going at full speed, I realized that I could see a glow from the lights in the parking lot, but I could not see the lights themselves. It got me to thinking about all the times in my life when I’ve seen light, but not the light. I witnessed the radiance, but I did not acknowledge the source because I could not see it through the translucent glaze that hindered my vision. Take the time to scrape, even when it’s a hassle and you find yourself using makeshift tools. When trying to get to your destination, it is important to be able to see clear enough to both appreciate the light and the source of the light.
Prayer: Let your light shine, O God of Glory. Let your light shine for all the world to see. Amen.
REMINDER: The 12 days of Christmas are December 25 – January 5 (Epiphany Eve). We are just beginning our journey to Epiphany, so don’t put your Wise Men away yet. They haven’t even made it to Bethlehem.
Scripture: Matthew 2:13
…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.
Thought from Day Two of the Twelve Days of Christmas:
On the second day of Christmas, my God gave to me – a way out when there doesn’t appear to be a way out. If you look at the whole of scripture, it appears that the God we worship is always working to draw people from enslavement and into freedom. Whether its systematic structures that keep segments of the population in servitude, addictions that keep individuals bound, or guilt that binds the brokenhearted God is working to change the circumstances. Though one important thing to note is that God most often uses people to help create a way when there doesn’t appear to be a way.
My family just watched Les Miserable last night (for the 100th time), and I was moved again by Valjean in the scene after the Bishop shows him grace. He is struggling to take his first step toward freedom and he says, “…why did I allow that man to touch my soul and teach me love? He treated me like any other. He gave me his trust. He called me brother. My life he claims for God above….He told me that I had a soul. How does he know? What spirit comes to move my life? Is there another way to go? …Another story must begin!” The door was opened by an individual who knew God’s grace and offered that same gift to another…thus creating a pathway where one had not previously been available. On this Second Day of Christmas, who are those givers of grace in your life? And how of you unlocked the door for someone else’s freedom?
Prayer: In your grace, O Lord, I desire to be a deliverer of your liberating grace to others. Amen.
REMINDER: The 12 days of Christmas are December 25 – January 5 (Epiphany Eve). This is to recognize the time that elapsed between the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi (on Epiphany). Some suggest it might have been as long as two years before they arrived, though the church has condensed it to 12 days of joyful celebration.
Scripture: John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Thought from Day One of the Twelve Days of Christmas:
On the first day of Christmas, my God gave to me – a gift of light wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a dark and dingy feeding trough. Anything else said might diminish the power of that image, yet we must remind the world that this event is not tied to a moment in history. It is a revelation of God’s eternal character, and for that reason, each day God takes the opportunity to be the gift of light in the dark and dingy realities of human life. Wherever you are this day, God is being born to you.
Prayer: Your gift of light and life is born unto us this day, O Loving Lord. Whatever our situation might be, give us the tools by which we can perceive and receive this marvelous gift. Amen.